Pitcher Pledges To Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE -- Former North Little Rock pitcher Chris Rhoads has verbally committed to sign with Arkansas and will enroll in classes in the fall.

Rhoads, a 6-foot-1, 155-pounder who has spent the past two seasons at Pratt (Kan.) Community College, said it is a lifelong dream to play for the Razorbacks. His uncle, Keith Helton, helped the Hogs to a pair of College World Series appearances and 50-win seasons as a pitcher from 1984-87.

"My uncle talked about it all the time and really enjoyed his time there," Rhoads said. "So I always wanted to play for Arkansas. I had my uncle get in contact with coach Jorn and then I e-mailed him myself and expressed my feelings about Arkansas.

"I talked to (Jorn) after they got eliminated out of the (NCAA Austin) Regional and he said he had some free time, so he came up and watched me and liked what he saw."

What Jorn saw was a fastball that averages between 87-91 mph, a nice slider and even a split-finger pitch that's used as a changeup in Rhoads' arsenal.

Rhoads used it to post a 5-3 record with a 3.33 ERA at Pratt this season. He struck out 41 in 48 1.3 innings while walking 21.

"If you play defense, you'll have a chance to win every time he pitches," said Pratt coach Jeff Brewer, whose team finished 28-24 and fifth in NJCAA Region IV. "He's going to compete every day and he was basically like an assistant coach because he helps out with every thing.

"Arkansas got a good one. No doubt about it."

Rhoads said he will sign his scholarship as soon as he receives all the paperwork. In the meantime, he will spend the summer with the Nevada (Kan.) Griffins of the competitive Jayhawk League. At North Little Rock, he was a a two-time all-conference performer and was named all-state as a senior.

"Coach Jorn said he's going to teach me some new stuff," Rhoads said. "He said I can iron out a few mechanical flaws that will increase my velocity so I'm excited to get down there."

Jorn was in Tulsa on Wednesday recruiting and won't return to Fayetteville until July 6. While NCAA rules prohibit him from commenting on specific prospects before they're signed, Jorn did talk about the team's general recruiting plans this summer.

"We've got a couple guys that we've been talking to," Jorn said. "They're all pitchers and we're just looking for time to bring them in."

Rhoads is the fifth pitcher the Razorbacks have signed who for sure will report in the fall. The others are Claremore, Okla., right hander Brett Bollman, Fayetteville left-hander Chad Coldiron, Rockwall, Texas, left-hander James Leverton and Dallas Jesuit right-hander Michael Wild.

Arkansas signed two pitchers,Travis Wood of Bryant and Kyle Hancock of Rowlett, Texas, who were taken in the top three rounds of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft earlier this month. Wood signed with Cincinnati Reds while Hancock remains in negotiations with the Colorado Rockies.

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